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The #1 Worst Thing You Can Do Indoors Right Now

The most dangerous things you can do indoors

With recent news about several states dropping indoor mask requirements, it might be tempting to assume it's safe to go back to "business as usual"—but that simply isn't the case. While the Omicron variant is declining nationwide, COVID-19 is still with us and people should not be complacent about the virus, says CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. "I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us," Walensky states. "Right now our CDC guidance has not changed … We continue to endorse universal masking in schools. We have and continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission—that is essentially everywhere in the country in public indoor settings." Here are the worst things you can do indoors without a mask on. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.


Going to Crowded Bars and Restaurants

crowded bar seats

Restaurants and bars are amongst the worst places to be maskless and in close contact with other people, especially in places without vaccine requirements. Not only are you sometimes literally shoulder-to-shoulder with others, but research shows imbibing alcohol encourages people to ignore social distancing rules. "This study shows that over time, alcohol reduces physical distance between people who are not previously acquainted," says Laura Gurrieri, a researcher in psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "This finding is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic because it suggests that alcohol might facilitate virus transmission and impede the following of social distancing guidelines." 

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Working Out In a Gym

multiracial group of 20 or 30-something adults on bikes in an indoor cycling class
Shutterstock / vectorfusionart

According to the CDC, gyms are problematic because of "touching or handling frequently touched surfaces and equipment, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes." If possible, try to find a workout space that is open-air, or keep your exercise outside entirely. If that's not possible, there are plenty of free at-home workouts available.

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Attending Giant Indoor Events

Music festival crowd excitement

Planning to attend a big concert or sports event? You might want to consider keeping your mask on. "Even people who have been vaccinated might still be able to spread the virus," says infectious disease specialist Donald Dumford III, MD, MPH. "If people choose to go to an indoor concert, they should wear masks in that location. If you have a large number of vaccinated people together — even though being fully vaccinated reduces the likelihood for you to acquire the virus — the people that acquire the virus are going to be just as contagious as somebody who wasn't vaccinated. Even if you're in with vaccinated people, and you're indoors, I would wear a mask."

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Visiting a Salon


Salon and spa services such as haircuts, mani-pedis, massages, and skin treatments are near-impossible to receive without getting physically close to another person. If you do visit an indoor salon, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing when possible, and maintaining good hygiene habits is crucial. "We're talking about almost certainly something that occurs indoors," says CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. "If it's a packed salon and there are some other customers within 6 feet of you indoors, that becomes, again, a higher-risk setting that I would try to avoid."

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Having An Indoor Party


While small, intimate gatherings are preferable to large ones, the CDC recommends staying vigilant and aware of what the COVID-19 cases are in your community: "High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the event location or the locations the attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Relevant data can often be found on the local health department website or on CDC's COVID Data Tracker County View."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

A mid adult woman protects herself by placing an N95 face mask over her nose and mouth.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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